Southie Parade Chief, Followed By Council Members, Flip Flops
By Evan Lips | March 10, 2017, 20:54 EDT
BOSTON — Word arrived Friday afternoon from a group of homosexual veterans that the chief organizer of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has unilaterally invited them to march and that they have accepted.
The chief organizer overruled the rest of the council Friday and invited the group to march. Then, on Friday night, the council voted 11-0 to approve the invitation.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council on Tuesday voted 9-4 to deny the application of OutVets, in part citing the group’s determination to march with the rainbow flag, which council members said goes against the Catholic nature of the parade.
It’s not clear how many members of the council who voted on Tuesday also voted on Friday.
OutVets, an organization dedicated to supporting homosexual veterans, confirmed the receipt of the invitation at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Sharman Sacchetti, a political reporter for 7News Boston, caught up with parade organizer Timothy Duross, who told her that he personally “decided that this a wrong that has to be corrected.”
“So I issued a letter to OutVets this afternoon, if they’ll come, they’re welcome,” Duross added.
— Sharman Sacchetti (@SharmanTV) March 10, 2017
The initial approval by Duross on Friday means that although the council may have voted earlier this week 9-4 to keep OutVets from marching, the ultimate deciding authority lay with Duross, in whose name the parade permit was issued. Duross, who is not a veteran, had cast one of the nine votes against OutVets, according to the Boston Globe.
Duross’s latest decision apparently effectively nullified any need to hold another vote.
— Susan Tran (@susantran) March 10, 2017
— Julie Loncich (@JulieLoncich) March 10, 2017
In recent days, the pressure to urge the parade organizers’ initial vote mounted, especially when high-paying sponsors began electing to opt out of the parade in response. One of those sponsors, the City of Boston Credit Union, issued a blistering press release condemning the denial.
“The Credit Union was prepared to sponsor and participate in this year’s parade,” the release stated. “However, with the unveiling of the Council’s vote this week to exclude this group of veterans, the Credit Union is no longer considering sponsorship or participation.
“City of Boston Credit Union takes pride in working with community organizations that welcome all people, with no room for discrimination.”
According to the release, the union announced it would be donating all sponsorship funds to the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans and other organizations.
Prominent leaders including Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh also made it clear that they would not be participating in the parade if OutVets was not invited.
On Thursday, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council tried to brush back mounting criticisms in a press release of its own, in which the council pointed out that the parade, since its founding in 1901, “has been a celebration of country, community and the Catholic faith.”
As part of the parade’s code of conduct, “the advertisement or display of one’s sexual orientation” is banned. Part of OutVets’ flag features a rainbow, a prominent symbol within the LGBT community.
“The question at hand is not one of inclusion or discrimination,” the release stated. “The Council is accepting of all people and organizations, but it will not permit messages that conflict with the overall theme of the parade.”
Parade organizers also noted that the previous displays of rainbow flags “led to the loss of support from Catholic organizations that had been in the Parade since the 1940s.”
Bryan Bishop, director of OutVets, had previously told the Boston Herald that removing the rainbow theme from the group’s flag would be “like taking stars off of the American flag.”
OutVets has marched previously in South Boston’s parade each of the last two years. The organization’s appearance in the 2015 parade marked the first time a group embracing homosexuality had marched.